By Isabella McShea
As part-time residents of Colorado Springs, Colo., Colorado College students have the unique opportunity to engage with our local El Paso County political system. El Paso County is a unique county in that it is a conservative bubble within the largely liberal state of Colorado.
A 2008 Rocky Mountain News article called El Paso County a “conservative bastion;” it has voted Republican in every presidential election except for those of Lyndon B. Johson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Colorado College students do not have the best reputation in terms of political engagement, either on a local or a wider scale. 2018 election turnout was less than half of the student body, according to a report by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. However, there is no reason that this stereotype cannot change.
Recently, state Rep. Shane Sandridge of District 14 introduced Bill HB20-1114, which is currently under consideration by the Colorado House of Representitives. The bill, called “Protect Minors from Mutilation and Sterilization,” seeks to make “a crime of unlawful sex reassignment treatment of a minor. A health care professional commits unlawful sex reassignment treatment of a minor if the person knowingly administers, dispenses, or prescribes a drug or hormone or orders or performs a surgical procedure for the purpose of facilitating sex reassignment of a minor.” HB20-1114 seeks to classify sex reassignment surgery or hormone replacement granted to a minor as a class 3 felony. For reference, other class 3 felonies within Colorado include first-degree arson and pimping.
Jon Caldara, a strong proponent of HB20-1114, was recently fired from his position at the Denver Post for insisting on the binary nature of gender. He was quoted from a Facebook post that notes “to force us to use inaccurate pronouns, to force us to teach our kids that there are more than two sexes, to call what is plainly a man in a dress, well, not a man in a dress violates our right of speech.”
The binary conception of gender is often associated with a western conception of identity and belonging. Many non-western cultures have long recognized and accepted people who see themselves in terms that defy an either-or notion of gender. The concept of a gender binary, according to Trans Student Educational Resources, “is oppressive to anyone who defies their sex assignment at birth, but particularly those who are gender-variant or do not fit neatly into one of the two standard categories.”
Even though there are fierce proponents of HB20-1114, there are many of those within the Colorado Springs community that argue these measures will drastically impact transgender, non-binary and intersex minors who could greatly benefit from these gender-affirming forms of medical care.
Despite these supporters, there remains ample evidence to suggest that this bill will accomplish the opposite effect of its intent to protect minors from physical or psychological harm. Vox reports, “Early studies have shown that transgender youth who are allowed to socially transition have mental health nearly indistinguishable from their cisgender peers.” This finding must be considered alongside a sobering statistic from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:“41% of trans adults report attempting suicide at least once in their lives, mostly as kids.” It seems that this bill will hurt the health and well-being of the youth for whom it claims to advocate.
“Our government would arrest and imprison doctors for up to 12 years simply for following their Hippocratic Oath to care for their patients and provide best practice medical care to their patients,” said State Rep. Yadira Caraveo of District 31. “Medical professionals and patients, not politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of an individual in accordance with the current medical best practices.”
As CC students living in Colorado Springs, it is our responsibility to be educated about local affairs and issues. This is just one example of many bills that could be introduced into the legislature in 2020. HB20-1114 is a bill that would criminalize gender confirmation care and would devastate transgender and non-binary rights in Colorado. I urge you to make your voices heard as a Colorado Springs constituent and as a human being. If you want to voice your opinion surrounding HB20-1114, please call its prime sponsor, Rep. Shane Sandridge of El Paso County, at the number 303-866-2965.